Friday, November 09, 2012

do Republican leaders get blackmailed?

I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but I have always suspected that there is a lot of political blackmail of Republicans by Democrats. I first started wondering about this back in the 80's when it turned out that one of the Republican senators from Arizona had been blackmailed by a gay group to support some sort of pro-gay legislation.

I wish I could remember the details better, but I don't even remember his name. What I recall is that the senator was gay and in the closet and (reasonably) feared that he would lose his seat if he was outed. He refused to give into the blackmail, outed himself, and won his next election. But I never heard about any legal penalties for the people who tried to blackmail him. I even wrote to his office to ask about it and got no reply. I always wondered ... how could someone try to blackmail a US Senator to legislate in a certain way and not be punished for it? Back then, I didn't understand how the laws are applied differently to Democrats vs. Republicans. I was naive.

As I recall, something similar has happened at least twice since with gay or philandering Republican members of Congress, and I don't recall anyone ever being charged, must less going to prison over it. With that background, why wouldn't the Democrats engage in blackmail whenever they can? Why wouldn't they use the results of their tens of millions spent on opposition research to blackmail people? What is the downside? If the Republican submits, they get a political advantage. If the Republican balks and goes public, nothing happens to them.

Is this why General Petraeus kept his mouth shut about Bengazi before the election? Was he blackmailed into keeping quiet, but then finally decided to out himself before giving Congressional testimony?

Is this why John Roberts made such a bizarre ruling on Obamacare, finding an incoherent excuse to rule that the Republicans were correct on the Constitutional issue but that Obamacare could stand anyway?

Is this one of the reasons why Republicans are so often betrayed by their elected representatives, who get elected on a conservative agenda and then go to Washington to act like Democrats?

What ever happened to the KGB infrastructure in the US when the Soviet Union fell? We know that they had many spies in place who, among other things, searched for blackmail material on American politicians and military leaders. We know that they compromised the Democratic Party and heavily influenced it. Don't forget that Watergate was inspired by the fact that Nixon knew from secret intelligence that the Democrats had been infiltrated by communist spies and he wanted to get evidence of this fact that he could use without compromising national security. (Unlike Obama, Nixon declined to reveal top-secret intelligence to advance his own political career).

When the Soviet Union fell, I don't remember any news reports about all those spies and blackmail experts going home. Instead of going home, did the spies just become paid political consultants and opposition researchers for the Democratic Party?

Of course, all of this speculation would be wild-eyed crazy if we didn't have so much open evidence of Democrat fraud and malfeasance. There are the poll watchers thrown out of polls in districts where massive voter fraud is almost certainly occurring every election. There is Obama's political decision to withdraw the conviction of Democrat allies for intimidating voters at a polling place. There is the suppression of military ballots. There is the way that the press covers up malfeasance on the part of Democrat politicians. The list goes on and on.

The more you know, the more you have to doubt the legitimacy of the US government.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

reaching out for empty victories

Since the election, I keep reading posts where Republicans say they need to "reach out" to some group or other if they ever want to win the presidency in the future. But is winning really the point? What about doing what is right? Should Republicans give up the rule of law (at least in the area of immigration law) in order to woo Hispanic voters? But if Republicans aren't for the rule of law, what good are they? Should they give up on the right of unborn children to life in order to woo single women? But if Republicans aren't for the fundamental right to life, what good are they? Should they endorse special privileges for blacks like Democrats do in order to woo black voters? But if Republicans aren't for racial equality, what good are they?

I can see the value of compromising on some principles in order to advance others. I don't have a really huge problem with the way that social conservatives have found common cause with fiscal conservatives and libertarians, for example, even though those two groups tend to favor the forces of cultural decay (not to mention the murder of innocents), but you have to draw the line somewhere. After all, what is the point of winning an election if you elect people who aren't going to do the job that you want them to do?

Monday, November 05, 2012

Enter the Dragon, it ain't

How often do you ever see big-budget Hollywood martial arts movies with A-list stars? Not too darn often. And The Man with the Iron Fists is no exception. I mean, yes, it's a big-budget Hollywood movie with A-list stars (Russel Crow and Lucy Lu), but it is, unfortunately, not a martial arts movie, regardless of how they might want to bill it.

The guy who made this movie (some dude who apparently has initials instead of a name, RZA) clearly had no idea how to make a martial arts movie. Here's the thing about the martial arts --they are arts. You know, ARTS, activities of skill and learning that require training and long practice to perfect, the sorts of disciplines that outsiders might be able to observe, but can never really understand without putting in a great deal of time and study.

Unlike your typical action movie, fight scenes in a martial arts movie are not just dramatic spectacles; they are exhibits of art. The fight scenes in The Man with the Iron Fists are to real martial arts what a kazoo band is to a symphony orchestra. This is especially sad because there there was plenty of talent in the cast to do real martial arts fight scenes if the director had only known how. Mr. initials did the equivalent of hiring a cast of concert musicians and giving them all kazoos to play the score for the movie.

This is not to say that the fight scenes in The Man with the Iron Fists are not entertaining. There were in fact some entertaining moments scattered throughout the fight scenes. There were more moments that could have been entertaining if the annoyingly abrupt camera motion had given the viewer time to appreciate them, but that would have involved more work on the part of the director and actors because to do justice to a fight sequence, the actors have to practice the motions over and over again until they can do them in real time without stopping. Then, depending on how much they move around, you may have to practice some more with the film crew, getting them to move at the right times and have the cameras in the right places. The man with the missing name (who also plays the man with the iron fists in addition to being the director) preferred to substitute special effects and jerky editing for this hard work. Or, more likely in my opinion, he just didn't know how to film a fight scene at all.

So, given that there is no art in the martial scenes, what inspires anyone to call this movie a martial arts movie? Simply that the setting, the story line, and prevalence of fight scenes was loosely patterned after certain kinds of martial arts movies. But even in this area, The Man with the Iron Fists was something of a let down.

There are no hard and fast rules about the story line of a martial arts movie, but there are certain commonalities that are usually observed. Usually, the first act creates a situation where a fight between the hero and the villain has to happen, and the fight happens in the third act as the climax of the movie. Sometimes the setup involves the hero and the villain having a fight early in the move and the hero loses, giving him a goal of practicing or finding some other way to defeat the villain in the showdown. Sometimes the setup involves the villain killing a friend or family member of the hero and the movie works on making you sympathize with the need for revenge. Sometimes it's a competition, either a blood sport, or the hero and the villain having conflicting goals and the movie makes you root for the hero. However the fight is set up, you have to have an Act II where you learn to share the hero's goals and fear what happens if he loses, otherwise the climactic fight is just another punch out.

In The Man with the Iron Fists we have no less than four climactic fight scenes but only two of them are set up with any motivation and only one of those setups occurs in the first act. The first-act setup is a typical revenge scenario, but the avenging hero is something of a bit player in the second act and never generates enough personality that you care whether he wins or not. The second fight setup happens late in the second act and there just isn't time to make you really care about the hero in that situation either. And obviously, the other two climactic fight scenes have no meaning for the audience since they were not set up at all. By the end of the movie, you don't really care much about what happens.

Of course, there are plenty of real martial arts films with bad, silly, or even incoherent story lines. They take place in various settings from ancient China to the American West to modern day locations all around the world. They can have various sorts of heroes and villains. Sometimes the villains can even win. None of that is essential to martial arts movies. What is essential to a martial arts movie is that the fight scenes display martial arts, not just kicks and karate chops and judo throws and nunchucks and throwing knives and men with invulnerable skins. If you don't have trained martial artists practicing their art in the fight scenes, or at least a plausible fake, then all you have is a fight movie with karate chops.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

why Hurricane Sandy makes me sad

I mean "why Hurricane Sandy makes me sad" besides the human and economic cost of the storm. That was bad, of course, but plenty of other people, many of them personally effected, are writing about it so there is no need for me to chime in. Another thing is making me sad: the way that conservatives are talking about the "failure" of the federal government in responding to the storm.

I understand, of course. It's a hard temptation to resist, comparing Sandy to Katrina, with all of the blatant hypocrisy from the media and entertainment industry. Katrina was George Bush's disaster which --according to the narrative-- showed that George Bush, who successfully defended us from a well-organized terrorist threat for seven years, was somehow incompetent because FEMA did not do a perfect job at stepping in and making up for all of the dismal failures of state and local government disaster response after Hurricane Katrina.

Today, FEMA is having the same problems with Hurricane Sandy. New York state and city have badly failed to deal with Hurricane Sandy and FEMA isn't ready to make up for that failure. With a presidential election less than a week away and a Democrat president, Republicans would obviously like to take advantage of that Democrat-created narrative of blaming the president for failures of state and local governments after a disaster. It has a pleasing irony in addition to being --potentially-- politically effective.

But in the process, I'm afraid that Republicans are committing themselves too much to new duties and new powers for the federal government. I'm afraid that if they are not careful, they will find it hard to argue against measures that would once again try to move power and responsibilities back to the states and local governments where it belongs.